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How will Microsoft fare in the smartphone wars?

by Howard Wolinsky

On Monday, Microsoft (MSFT) unveiled new handsets using the Windows Phone 7 operating system as the new mobile platform took aim at Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and Google’s (GOOG) Android.

Covering the launch, Caroline McCarthy in CNET said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer feels there is “no such thing as one phone for everyone -- but there can be one operating system. Everybody should be able to take a look at a Windows Phone and say, 'I can represent me in this device.'"

Over the years, Motorola (MOT) and others have made a similar pitch, calling for different phones for going to work or as a fashion statement at night.

McCarthy said Microsoft announced nine Windows Phone 7 devices for the U.S. market from Dell (DELL), HTC (2498.TW), Samsung (005930.KS) and LG (066570.KS). "You see phones with keyboards," Ballmer said, gesturing to a row of all nine devices in front of him. "You see phones like the LG phones that can play to TV, you'll see super beautiful screens like the beautiful screen on this Samsung... very large screen as you see on this HTC device right here and of course rugged, for-the-hardest-use-type phones like this Dell device."

Mobile analyst Sascha Segan told Wendy Sheehan Donnell in PCMag.com “I’m disturbed by some missing features. The worst is the lack of landscape format display support on many built-in apps, because that causes serious trouble for slider-style phones. (Points to Dell for dodging that bullet with a vertical slider!) And no multitasking means no Slacker Radio in the background, which is a real bummer.

"That said, the Zune, Xbox, and Microsoft Office experiences are really compelling, and the browser looks just plain awesome. I had a great time skimming web pages and pinching to zoom."

For a breakdown on the WP7 phones, see Richard Lai at Engadget.

Marketplace reports: “Microsoft seems to be taking an interesting angle as far as marketing this platform: they're presenting it as the phone for people who want to get off the phone. The idea is to get the information you want in as few clicks/swipes/pushes as possible so you can get back to real life.”